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Residents Still Unsatisfied With City's Answers About New Homeless Shelters

Whittney Evans

Residents who went to Salt Lake City’s homeless shelter workshops are still worried, still frustrated and say they’re not getting the answers they want from city officials.

Residents at the workshop say they still envision The Road Home, with its largely visible sea of human suffering, make-shift tents, crime and drug use and frankly don’t want it in their neighborhoods. This despite efforts city officials have made to convince them otherwise. Sugar House resident Chris Sveiven has attended just about every public hearing since the city announced that it would build a shelter on Simpson Avenue. He says he’s not convinced it will be different.  

“I have looked all over the country for a model where they put a resource center in the middle of nothing but residential housing and I can’t find a single example,” Sveiven says.

Councilmembers Erin Mendenhall and Lisa Adams defected from the council and the mayor’s early December agreement on the four locations. Adams says she believes in the new service model, which will couple emergency shelter with drug treatment and other vital services to get people into housing. However, she says residents have valid concerns about the Simpson site.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s deputy chief of staff David Litvack said earlier this week the administration is still committed to four shelter/resource centers, including the one at the Simpson Avenue location. He said Biskupski would consider building housing on the site-an idea Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams pitched last week. But Litvack said it would be in addition to, not in lieu of the planned shelter/resource center.

“The commitment we made to the legislature, the administration and the council together was for four resource centers, serving up to 150 individuals capped at 550 across the city,” he said.

Democratic State Representative Joel Briscoe says keeping The Road Home shelter open until it’s no longer needed would put many  of his Sugar House constituents at ease.

“We’ve got a problem with, oh we don’t have space at the jail, and we’re shutting down The Road Home. So I think a lot of the people in the neighborhoods are going well, wait a minute, where is the safety valve? Is it my street, because the city says they’re shutting down The Road Home, hell or high water?

Wednesday night was the third and final workshop designed to help residents gain insight into the new homeless services model. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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